The Art of Asking: A Lesson on Kindness

Before I review The Art of Asking, I have to talk about my personal experience getting the book. I moved to Massachusetts four years ago. I knew one other person who lived in the state when I made the decision to move. Four years later, I’m attending Amanda Palmer’s event at Boston Book Festival. As I walk down the line to get in, I see friends from college, friends from home in New Jersey, friends I met through New England’s nerdy online communities.

Terrible shot, but the only picture I have from my first Palmer and Gaiman event, a book release for Anthony Martignetti
Terrible shot, but the only picture I have from my first Palmer and Gaiman event, a book release for Anthony Martignetti

I realized something, then. I realized that I’ve created my own community filled with kind people, and most of that is thanks to my admiration of Amanda Palmer and her husband, Neil Gaiman. Over the four years I’ve lived on the South Shore, I’ve seen Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman twice. I’ve seen Neil Gaiman on his own once, and Amanda Palmer in concert several times. Every time I went, I asked friends from school to go with me, turning casual friends into best friends. At every single one of the events, I made new friends.

When the tickets for Amanda’s Boston Book Festival panel went up, she tweeted about it, and I saw it. I brought friends from New Jersey and friends from college. Once our spot in line was secured, I bounced between groups of friends, giving hugs, catching up.

That’s what The Art of Asking is about.

imageThis book is three books, carefully crafted into one.

It is first a memoir. Amanda Palmer has had a truly interesting life, and she shares lessons she’s learned along her way. The book is framed around one dilemma: could she possibly borrow a large sum money from her husband? The book comes back to this over and over again, as Amanda talks about the different parts of her life. As a human statue, as a stripper, as half of a punk cabaret band, as a blogger, as a girlfriend, and as a friend, Amanda learns about herself and grows as a human being and a performer, but always comes back to whether or not she can take money from her husband.

Secondly, this is a book for artists. Throughout Amanda’s stories are tips for how to create a fan base, AND KEEP IT, how to utilize online funding sites like Patreon and Kickstarter, and how to cope with the criticism that comes with fame. This is what initially inspired Amanda’s TED Talk, which is how this book came about. Her TED Talk was about twelve minutes, and the book is a three hundred fifty page expansion.

imageLastly, this book is a self-help book. I think this was intentional, but it isn’t blatant. In her career as an artist, Amanda has needed help and been afraid to ask. Through her journey, she gives these wonderful 1-2 line statements that not only have the ability to be mantras of hope, but have become those mantras. As I’ve been writing this, I checked Twitter and found that Amanda retweeted a picture of a quote from The Art of Asking tattooed on someone’s feet.

I loved all three parts of this book equally, and truly believe that Palmer fan or not, you should pick this book up. The idea behind the art of asking is inherently reciprocal kindness and trust. When Amanda talks about how asking for a crash space is a leap of faith, I see it more as an exploration into the kindness of humanity. As I was reading this book, I kept thinking that I had to share these lessons with someone.  Needless to say, many of my friends will be receiving a copy of this book for the holidays.

Amanda Palmer as a writer is captivating. Obviously, anyone who has listened to her songs or read her blogs would know this, but presented with three hundred and fifty continuous pages of her writing, it was near impossible to put this book down. The book also contains a beautifully written foreword by Brene Brown, whom I have not read, but I fully intend to start reading. If you get the paperback, there’s also a compelling afterward on the art of not having to ask, presented by Maria Popova.

As a long time member of Amanda Palmer’s fan community, picking up this book was a no-brainer for me. After reading it, recommending it has also become a no-brainer. It is a powerful feminist tale. The Art of Asking was clearly written with love and has so much to teach.

Want to own a copy? Click here to buy one WITH fun holiday goodies!

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